1975 film captures the heartbreaking transition from countercultural free spirits to corporate office drones

In "Word Processing: The Pivot Point," an industrial film exhumed from the crypt of 1975, we witness the collision of the countercultural zeitgeist with the inexorable march of corporate mechanization. At first glance, this celluloid relic appears to be little more than corporate propaganda, seducing "middle management" into embracing the then-unfathomable concept of "word processing" — a bureaucratic ballet orchestrated by Administrative Services Departments, Word Processing Specialists, and Administrative Support Secretaries, wherein men dictate memos into office telephones, and women in remote offices transcribe and file them.

But the film is also an archaeological dig unearthing the psychosocial fossils of a bygone era. The protagonists of this corporate tragicomedy, survivors of the acid-soaked Summer of Love and the Woodstock bacchanalia, now find themselves imprisoned in offices bedecked with burnt orange pop art, their sideburns and puffball coiffures framing faces etched with regret and resignation. As they parrot the soul-crushing jargon of "restructuring existing office functions" and "demonstrating organizational ability," their polyester-clad bodies undoubtedly yearn for the embrace of free love in a concert mud puddle or a commune hot tub.

The film is also a testament to the unabashed sexism of that today's Republicans fantasize over. At the 7:40 mark, the narrator mourns the waning status of having a "gal" to boss around, the "secretary as a status symbol." A woman from secretarial services chimes in, commenting on the decline of the "my-girl" syndrome. Another, showing a feminist streak, adds, "I've had many executives tell me that they prefer beauty to brains. All that really tells me is that they can see better than they think."

As the dreary spectacle concludes, the narrator delivers a message worthy of Beckett at his bleakest: "We've seen demonstrably, intellectually, that word processing is a good thing for everybody. Now let's admit it in our heart of hearts we may not exactly be crazy about changing over to it but probably the best course of action is to learn how to use it anyway."

[Thumbnail: Periscope Film/YouTube]